Document at local historical shows social distancing was practiced during other historic pandemics

Published: May. 20, 2020 at 4:26 PM EDT
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​A document that reminds us that widespread and historic illnesses have happened before is in hands of the Blue Hill Historical Society.

This letter was written by the selectmen of the town of Blue Hill in 1798.

A ship had come in to the harbor and a man on board had yellow fever.

In 1793 there was a devastating epidemic of yellow fever in Philadelphia.

The fever returned in 1797.

Because of that the town people were very worried about another outbreak.

In the letter the selectmen ordered the captain of the ship to clean themselves, clean the vessel and make sure every person besides a doctor stays away from the sick man.

It also instructs people who take care of the sick man to have no communication with any other person.

Overall, it's very similar to our reality today.

Ann Durgin, Curator of The Blue Hill Historical Society says, “So, they knew. They were very very smart even knowing that medical knowledge was very limited. They had the right idea. It’s really hard, we are human beings and we don’t always learn our lesson the first time around. So everyone was very very nervous. They went to the selectman and said do something. So the selectmen wrote a letter to the captain of the ship and they told the captain what they expected him to do. It is so remarkable because it is exactly what we are doing now.”

The ship was called the Unicorn.

The letter does not say whether the sick man survived yellow fever or not.